Named after the Versilia river, The Versilia stretches across 20 kilometers of coastline south of Lucca. There are fine, blue flag beaches, bathing establishments and luxury resorts in this amazing stretch of Tuscan coastline. Just up the slope behind the beachfront you can escape from the glitter of the resorts and the raucous nightlife and enjoy calm of the rural life and the silvery leaves of Olive trees dancing in the sea breezes. There's something for everyone here in the Versilia, from Archaeology to Puccini.
The main towns that make up the "heart" of Versilia are Forte dei marmi, Pietrasanta and Viareggio on the coast, Massarosa near Lake Massaciuccoli, Camaiore in the hills, and Stazzema and Seravezza in what is known as the upper Versilia.
Viareggio is the largest beach town in Tuscany. Art nouveau buildings housing shops, cafes, and seafood restaurants line its promenade. There are several good art nouveau, or Liberty style, villas in town. Although Viareggio was at its peak as a resort in the 1920's, it's still a top Tuscan town for beaches, seafood, and nightlife. It's also known for holding one of Italy's top carnevale, or mardi gras festivals. See more on Viareggio Carnevale.
Viareggio is on the train line that runs along the coast between Genoa and Rome. It's just off the A12 autostrada that runs along the coast from the French border. The closest airport is Pisa, about 15 miles away.
The Grand Hotel Excelsior, one of the historic hotels of Viareggio was built in 1925 through a partnership between architects Galileo Chini and Alfredo Belluomini.
A walk around the city will reward you with many other examples of this popular architectural style.
Bagno Guido has been around since the early 1900s. It hasn't changed. "Its historical arcade has always been reconstructed and never changed, because it is to be found in many of the historical photographs of Viareggio, tourist guides and postcards all around the world."
Forte dei Marmi is a low key beach resort aimed at wealthy Italians. Forte Dei Marmi was, in fact, one of the first beach resorts in Italy, begun at the turn of the century and becoming instantly popular with royalty and the rich "beautiful people" who still flock to villas in the pines.
The number of bathing establishments is enormous--you can see a list Bathing Establishments Forte dei Marmi.
This is perhaps the best place to shop along the Versilia coast. The city offers its rich villa dwellers a Wednesday market that deals in designer clothing, among other things. It is known to offer bargains, it's also the place to go to get cut-price reproductions of expensive designer clothes. The town of Forte dei Marmi is centered around the market and the marble fortress built in 1788.
The fort itself is now home to the The Museum of the Fort for Satire and Caricature.
Marina di Pietrasanta features a sandy beach stretching for about 5 kilometers. After your beach time, you'll want to head north to see the town of Pietrasanta.
The town of Pietrasanta, inland from the Marina, is interesting to visit. It's a town of artists and marble statuary, and many of the workshops are open to peek into, like the one you see on the right.
Many statues from famous sculptors are exhibited in the piazza del duomo. And by the way, the duomo's bell tower is more interesting than you may think. Here's a little art itinerary through the Tuscan art town.
The town of Pietrasanta is worth a day on a day trip from any town in Versillia.
If you are used to the wild and free beaches of California, you may be dismayed that many of Italy's best beaches are commercial, like the one over there on the left. The deal is, you rent a place on the beach for a while from one of the bagni, which includes a chair and sometimes an umbrella (often an extra cost). You get the use of changing rooms and sometimes a locker for your street clothes. There is usually a free section of beach, and according to Kyle Phillips in an Overview of Tuscan Beaches, "though bagni can keep you from spreading your towel between their umbrellas, they cannot deny you access to the swash zone (where the waves run up) – in other words, you can walk by the commercial establishments on the way to the free beach, which every town has."
Camaiore stretches from the Apuan Alps to the plains and the coast of Versilia to the west.
Thanks to the Lido (the beach area), an elegant seaside resort area, has attracted historically significant Italian figures like Gabriele D'Annunzio, Eleonora Duse and Vittorio Emanuele III.
The town has a variety of religious monuments, The Renaissance Palazzo Tori Massoni is worth a visit; it is home to the Civic Archeological Museum. According to Visit Tuscany:
The museum has one section about human evolution and three archeological sections dedicated to prehistory, the Etruscans and the Romans, and the Middle Ages. The finds in these sections come from local archeological sites: the Grotta dell’Onda cave, the ancient Roman villa on via Acquarella in Capezzano Pianore and the medieval settlement of Montecastrense.
Close to Camaiore is the partially restored castle of Montemagno. The road that climbs out of Camaiore to the village of Montemagno is a favorite with mountain bikers.
Just past the stadium in the village of Capezzano Pianore, west of Camaiore, you'll find the Ristorante La Dorgana. It's been serving great food since 1975. The menu lists traditional food and an equal number of modernized dishes. It's got a great outside eating area.
On the right is the modern Version of the popular summer dish called Vitello Tonnato, which translates to "veal with a tuna sauce" and is popular in Piemonte. It's way better than it sounds.
Torre di Lago Puccini is famous for its Puccini festival. A visit to the the Liberty style villa where Giacomo Puccini lived is highly recommended.
In July and August the outdoor theater on the shore of Lake Massaciuccoli hosts the Puccini Festival with performances of his operas. Concerts and ballet performances are held in the theater, too. Book your hotel ahead if you plan to stay in Torre del Lago during the festival.
Puccini called this area "paradise" and in fact the lake is still very peaceful and a good place for a relaxing vacation. He turned an old watch tower by the lake into his villa and wrote many of his operas there. Not so long ago the name Puccini was appended to the town name of Torre del Lago to honor the famous composer.
Lake Massaciuccoli, in my opinion, stands as one of the more interesting and romantic lakes in Italy. Yes, "better" if you will, that Garda and Como. There is a calm about its glassy surface, a softness around its shoreline. The eastern shores are set up for birdwatching, with raised walkways in the wetlands and blinds made for that early morning photography you might be inclined to participate in. Go up the hill to see ruins of an ancient Roman farm with baths and a great view over the lake. If you're leaving, head toward the town of Massarosa. 10 km north of the you'll find the tiny village of Corsanico that has as its centerpiece a parish church with an absolutely stunning, monumental organ.
Even the boathouses are spectacularly romantic. Read our guide to Lake Massaciuccoli.
The inland town of Saravezza has two very good reasons to visit. One is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Medici castle and its stables and gardens, built in the 1600s that remains a tremendous example of Tuscan rural noble architecture of the time, and the other is the marble quarries that Michelangelo was to use to extract marble for the façade of the church of San Lorenzo in Florence.
By the time Michelangelo completed the road from the quarry to Florence to transport the marble to the site, the plans for the façade had been abandoned. The road remains, now known as the Via di Michelangelo.
Sant'Anna di Stazzema is well known for the Nazi attrocity committed in the small village.
On the morning of August 12, 1944, in retaliation for acts of sabatoge and under orders to cleanse the area of partisans, German forces rounded up hundreds of villagers who hadn't already fled and killed them where they gathered and in their houses, then set those houses on fire. The slaughter of the entire village of Sant Anna Stazzema, over 500 men, women and children (and livestock) took three hours. The massacre of Sant Anna di Stazzema was likely the most atrocious war crime comitted by Nazis on Italian soil. Read more...
Professional Travel Consultant Serena Giovannoni of Wish Versilia can plan a wedding or vacation to this amazing corner of Tuscany that is her specialty. Below are her favorite places and things to do in Versilia.
My favorite place in Tuscany is Versilia, best known for its golden beaches, small villages and natural parks in the hinterland, its mild climate and its amazing nightlife and entertainment. What makes this area unique to me is the richness of views and landscapes, tricking the native people into believing that any other part of the world can offer the same colorful abundance.
Versilia is worth visiting in summer as well as in winter time. Its lively towns, from Viareggio to Pietrasanta to Forte dei Marmi and Camaiore are always teeming with events and activities going on all year long to taste, shop and have fun!
Food lovers may start from Viareggio, right on the pier to watch the hectic activities of fishermen in the morning and taste some typical Fish and Chips by the canal; the tour shall then climb up to Camaiore to experience the true fresh pasta making and taste some native wine and salami
Music lovers cannot miss the Puccini tour starting from Torre del Lago, visiting the native home of the master and the world famous theater where Tosca and Butterfly revive each summer, continuing to the Massaciuccoli Lake rand the historical dwellings whose noble floors hosted Puccini while he was composing his great operas.
Shopaholics may find in Versilia their kingdom, for all pockets and all tastes, from posh Forte dei Marmi’s boutiques to street markets, to top shops in Viareggio’s deco promenade.
Sea lovers may enjoy the beach all year long with any kind of leisure and sports: sunbathing, sea water pools, kite surfing, wind surfing, horse riding (in winter), jogging. The sandy beach stretches for over 30 km backed by the massive presence of the Apuan Alps;
Mountain lovers will have difficulty in choosing among trekking trails, rock-climbing, panoramic views, mountain views and archaic caves.
Arts lovers will find in Versilia the land of Michaelangelo, Botero, Mitorai and many others who have chosen Pietrasanta and its famous workshops to forge their masterpieces as well as the Carrara quarries to extract the “white gold” to create them.
These are just a few suggestions on what Versilia can offer for a vacation, but there is so much hidden just round the corner. Come and see!
Don’t miss Chalet restaurant just on the Belvedere of the Lake in front of Puccini’s native house
Stay at Marchionni hotel which is a good quality hotel, right in front of the beach and of the promenade in Viareggio, yet affordable for young people and families.
Have a meal at Osteria Candalla which was built out of water mill and is the right place to rest, refresh in summer and taste the typical Versilian cuisine.
Don’t miss the beautiful panorama from under the shade of cypresses from Pieve a Elici village just north of Massarosa.
Stop along the Riviera in a beach bar and have drink in front of the sea at sunset.
Enjoy your vacation in Versilia, there's a lot to see in this little corner of Tuscany.
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